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Shanghai Traffic | ©stephen velasco/Flickr
Shanghai Traffic | ©stephen velasco/Flickr
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How to Survive the Commute in Shanghai

Picture of Rachel Deason
Updated: 31 January 2017
As the third most populous city in the world, Shanghai during rush hour can sometimes be a nightmare. But fear not because there are much better ways to get around than by car. In fact, Shanghai is on the cutting edge of transportation technology, meaning there’s no excuse to be late to work because of a little traffic.

Take the Metro

By route length, Shanghai’s is the largest metro system in the world. It’s also one of the best, with trains on the busiest lines arriving every two to three minutes during peak hours. There are currently 14 active lines with the construction of additional lines under way. Sure, the metro can still get very crowded during rush hour, but it cuts down on commute time and is an all around painless experience.

Share a Bike

Many cities around the world offer rentable bike programs, but Shanghai is the first city to introduce dock free bikes, meaning that bikes can be picked up and dropped off just about wherever. There are two major players in the game: Mobike and Ofo. Mobike is the easiest to use for foreigners, as the app is available in English. The iconic orange Mobikes can be located via GPS and cost a mere RMB1 per half hour to ride.  Ofo does not currently offer an English app, but its yellow bikes are even cheaper to ride at RMB1 per hour. It may take some time to learn the rules (or lack thereof) of the road in Shanghai, but bike riding is ultimately very safe, with bike lanes offered throughout the city.

Ride the Trolleybus

As of 2017, Shanghai is home to a 10.9 mile (17.5km) trolleybus system, which runs east to west along the Yan’an elevated highway. The bus travels at twice the speed of regular city buses, and has its own designated lane, meaning that it won’t be subject to typical rush hour traffic. Passengers must board the bus from the middle of the highway, entering from special staircases built from pedestrian bridges.

Get a Scooter

You haven’t gone truly local until you buy yourself an electric scooter. Riding a scooter to work may involve a fair bit of traffic, but the laws are still lenient towards those who ride on the shoulder or on sidewalks, meaning that, for now at least, you can dart and weave through cars with relative immunity. Even if scooter riding doesn’t do much to cut down on your commute time, it’s fun enough to make you forget it’s just another routine journey.

Brush up on your Chinese

So you’ve decided to ignore Culture Trip’s advice and take a taxi to work anyway. Well now is your chance to spend some time practising those Chinese language skills you’ve been neglecting. Download the dictionary app Pleco and make flashcards for characters you pass on road signs and buildings. These will often be practical terms that will come up again and again in daily life.